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Tuesday, August 2, 2022


 

Revelation


The world is a whirling place -

Spinning in dizzying, constant motion,

masking with benevolent deceit its gesturing,

attempting to convince with thin perception,

firm feet floating and clear giddy heads.


But it doesn’t always work.

The world cannot help but reveal itself.


It’s the movement, of course.

The coils of a wave,

a dissipation of shadow,

the reeling of stars,

give it away.


Reflection reminds me that 50,000 tides have drawn themselves in and out,

and half as many risings and settings have defined the days of life.

Eight hundred moons have waxed and waned,

and blood flowed through half those to mark the promise of life,

fruit both born and unborn.


Yet, even after all of these,

all the rhythms of this living,

this one heart still fills the world with insistent percussion.

Each day brings its own new-born light,

announcing itself as though the first ever made,

ignoring that millions like it have already gone before

and that I, myself, have witnessed so many of them.


It doesn’t matter, you see.


The turning is relentless.

A million, a thousand, or the first,

they have every one, acknowledged or not,

brought renewed miracle to the world.


Breath, brilliance;

Power, promise;

converge and distill,

unable to deny their source.


They are all the time close,

as a soft breeze stroking with welcome, familiar hands.

This world,

this grace-filled, specific, intentional gift,

opens full-face every new morning,

and all one needs to know it is to raise astonished eyes,

recognizing Joy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Park Street at Dawn


 

Cool gray.

Clean white.

Muffled, covert blue.


Safe and spare, the house resists heartbreaking human heat, the demands of purple flesh and red blood.


Ice house, clean and clear.

It cannot long hold sway.


Even now, life’s inevitable chaos rises and memories begin to gather in corners.

Flowers poke through between stones.

New books settle on shelves, bringing wild, dangerous thoughts.

Sheets of dancing notes people the piano rack, threatening music.


We all do it.

Hoard the calm, grab up the quiet.

Pull in the drawbridge and pretend that peace is a natural state.


But you see, no saving can come where nothing is out of place.

The narrow way is only a choice when surrounded by unpredictability—orange points of pain—black chasms.


But they have not come yet.

For now, this cool fortress remains, still alive in the slow breaths of hypothermia, holding on, hoping.

We will understand its stranglehold before it’s too late.

God always burns hotter than we bargain.

Even now, the mist evaporates and the drawbridge begins to shudder.

He comes for us.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Palm Sunday

 

Much less a cloaked, handpicked donkey on a dusty road.

In two weeks, the leaves will dry to cracking, tucked behind a picture frame.


Palm Sunday.

Prim.

Spare.

Measured.

Where is the crowd?

Where the sweaty exultation?


Let Him enter the ancient doors,

The King of Glory!

Shout for joy, daughters of Jerusalem!


Instead, this rote crowd shuffles, trudges,

Singing in polite unison,

Missing the slow burn,

The threat of pregnant glory already poised at the temple veil.


Who is this King of Glory?

He is the Lord of Hosts!


Silly palms.

Too little then.

Too little now.



Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Praying the Mass

Preserve my life and keep me from harm, not  only so that I may enjoy it, but so that I may bear witness to your Godhead.

Teach me your good that I may do it, not to be a good human, but to be an obedient child looking always to you for wisdom.

Forgive my sins and make me white as snow, not only to save me, but to reveal what you have deposited in me for your glory.

Accept my sacrifices, not because they are worthy, but because they are all I have.

Hear my prayers, not because they are beautiful, but because words re the only way I know to describe my love.

Give me a new heart and a new spirit, not only because I need them, but so that I may use them in your service in this life and lay them at your feet in the next.

Have mercy on your church, not for its victories, but for its failures--in vain leadership, in hard-hearted exclusion, in sure, self-centered righteousness. Help the church you commissioned mold itself to your intent.

Help us be content with humility, but not satisfied with partial holiness.

Help us to face and repent of sin, but not assume sanctification outside of your specific influence.

May we always be refreshed at your table, but not forget that not only are all invited, all too are children in your sight.

I hide, safe in the shadow of your wing, at the same time warm in your shared glory.

You are greater than my heart.


Credit: Donatello's Mary Magdalen, Opera Museum, Florence, Italy
 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Elizabeth

 

No one ever reminds us you’d gotten old.

The paintings are too kind--

they’ve smoothed your skin,

covered your silver hair,

draped or forgotten your knobby bones and age spots.


I know how you felt.

Not only the erratic weariness and morning aches,

but the unbidden pants,

the huddling, cold shiver,

the squinting, the pause before each stair.


Small things, each of them,

not debilitating,

only ungentle reminders of what time had done.


Add them all to a great, tussling belly.

Urgent, with a job to do.

Bursting to begin.

While your own flesh all too often remembers its own job is nearly done.


Yes, the paintings are kind.

They ignore it all,

looking at you both with Mary’s eyes, with God’s,

and revel only in your exultation.


Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Bradford Beach, February 28

 



The clouds draw back and steel-white yields to new gold.

Sand that had solidified into rough concrete starts to crumble back into grains.

Waves form mounting regiments as far out as the horizon and advance.

Suggestions of blue wash below their white foam

And curl onto the beach, disintegrating over hills of gleaming ice they made of their own muted thunder through long, cold months.

New wind blows them in, one that today promises hot sand leaking up radiant between grateful toes

and cool, welcome water on bare, grateful legs.


Today, visitors pull parkas tight against wind that still carries winter’s learned chill,

But the big lake is never quiet.

It won’t hide its constant churn the way smaller ones do,

The way even rivers ice over, acquiescing to winter’s dominion.

Yes, Persephone weeps below and the earth mourns, temporarily subdued, life and motion stolen, but not here.

Here defiant water still moves,

Resisting winter’s seasonal death,

Resilient.

Leading the way to renewal.


Already still-cold water begins to wash away the frozen mounds of its own making.

The earth’s arc veers again back toward the sun.

I stand and watch, not moving, but flying through space,

Remembering that even a long winter can’t stop this dance.



Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Escape from Mark Zuckerberg


 Plato was a pretty smart guy. 

Most people know that, of course, but most of us don't think often about what he had to say and what it might mean for us 2500 years later. For anybody who has any inclination to make sense of life and the world, Plato has always been one of the places to begin, after all, and his principles of life's essence, his Forms, have plenty to chew on. But Plato liked to tell stories, too, and one of his most well known is his Cave Allegory.

I've included a picture to help you visualize it, and *SPOILER ALERT* also stole the contemporary twist from my Philosophy professor, Agust Magnusson, but it was so good I had to share it. Thank you, sir.

So here's the basic tale: there are these people who have lived in a cave all of their lives and they're chained in there so all they can see is the back wall. Behind them is a big fire and also somebody standing in front of it holding up a bunch of shapes that mimic stuff in the world-birds, animals, that kind of stuff. So what do the chained people see? Shadows. Now, they're shadows of stuff that's real, but they don't know that because they've never seen anything real, only the shadows. And they like them. They're amusing, even beautiful in their way. And, as long as the shadows are around, the cave dwellers are pretty happy. 

But one day, somebody escapes the cave and gets out in the real world. "Whoa," he thinks. "There's a lot of stuff out here--things not only to see, but to feel and taste and hear, too. This world is way cooler than we thought." Now the story doesn't say this, but maybe this guy brings back something to show his friends. Maybe he brings back a rose. And he tells them about the world. And he gives them the rose. But they don't much like it. The rose is too fragile and too dirty and -ouch!- it has thorns. They throw it back at him and turn back to their shadows, content and safe. 

Our escapee turns to face the people holding the shadow shapes that keep his friends amused. He can't figure it out. What's wrong with these people? But the shape holders just smile. They know. Our escapee flees the cave for the last time to encounter the real world, and all the beauty and ugliness it presents and eventually, probably gets eaten or something, but at least he's exulted in the meantime. He's lived.

So the escapee dies, but the cave dwellers are still alive. Kind of.  Yeah, you say, I saw the Matrix too. What's the big deal? Take a look at the picture again. Doesn't it look like a movie theater? Or your gaming setup? Or the place you binge watch 100 episodes of The Office? And who the heck is that holding the light? Are those mouse ears on his head? Is he wearing a tee-shirt with a lower case 'f'? 

Come on. You know who he is. He's anybody who's invested in keeping your head from turning to look around, who creates a world where you lose yourself, one you can't figure out whether you love or hate. It's anybody who sucks you in, steals the irreplaceable moments of your life, and substitutes what's important to them to keep you from thinking about what's important to you. It's Netflix. The NFL.  It's Mark (blanketyblank) Zuckerberg. (Humph) Meta. It's only another word for fake. 

I deleted Facebook from my phone a month ago and everybody's been asking me whether I've had any withdrawal. Nope. Not a moment. All I feel is free. Tired of shadows, I'm out of the cave and in danger, but oh, man, it feels good. 

photo credit: reddit.com